For Polygon, Simon Parkin writes about how Barcade came about and where it’s going.
Younger gamers are, in a sense, both the secret to Barcade’s success and its great ongoing threat. More than players like Chien and the older pros, Barcade attracts young local patrons typical of the Brooklyn bar scene. For many of these visitors the classic arcade hits of the 1980s were released long before they were born, familiar to them primarily as cultural icons rather than living memories.
“When we opened in 2004, some of these games weren’t even 20 years old,” says Kermizian. “But now, eight years on, we find the ideal period of nostalgia keeps shifting on us as our customers are a little bit younger. So we’ve started to go with some early ’90s games. You know, we’ve put Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in two of the three arcade locations and that’s our number one most popular game now. People just go crazy playing that.”
On a good night a single Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles machine will see its coin tray filled. “At the end of the night we just dump a bucket of quarters out of the machine, around 50 bucks worth.”
All these years on, with prices unadjusted for inflation, the aging arcade still offers a viable business. But time continues to be the greatest menace to the arcade, even in the midst of this repackaged revival. For many, this parade of curios whose bleeps and flashes provide an atmospheric link to the past long gone is little more than a hands-on exhibit, where Space Invaders’ and Pac-Man’s iconography is not forgotten but made fashionable. But fashions are transient. How long can the business model sustain?